By: Allaire W
Curating events centered around Black women’s issues is nothing new for Merry Green. As president of MGPG Events, she understands the need for spaces that cater to African American women with a focus on mental health and wellness. With documented success in event planning and production, community engagement, experiential learning, and public relations, her transition into creating and founding “The Black Women’s Expo” made sense.
The largest multi-city exposition in the country for African American Women, The Black Women’s Expo, or BWe NEXT recently celebrated its 25th year in Chicago. With a goal of reaching as many women as possible, the Expo has expanded to Atlanta and Detroit.
“I started this in 1993 as An Expo for Today’s Black Woman,” says Green. “Initially designed to be an annual event where small businesses and major corporations could showcase their products and services to African American consumers in Chicago, this has grown beyond my wildest dreams. Connecting with the African American consumer within this uplifting, motivational environment where the focus is empowerment amplifies your brand’s message and frames it in a most positive way. This is how brand loyalty is formed.”
Today’s expo provides a platform where many societal issues of black women are faced, amplified, and tackled. An intergenerational exposition targeting Black women and their families, it’s a safe space where women gather to share ideas, search for solutions, grow their businesses and connect with corporate brands.
The weekend is full of small and large activations, addressing the needs of Black women and their families. With a five-star roster of subject-matter experts, attendees get information through topical seminars and general sessions in themed resource pavilions. Some of this year’s pavilions include the Shhh! Lounge, #SHEMATTERS Beauty Lounge, #SHEMATTERS Lifestyle Lounge, Kidz Korner, the Men’s Den, and Natural Hair.
“We have curated sessions in health & wellness, food & nutrition, finance & generational wealth, business ownership, and much more,” says Green. “There are many resources for attendees, including a small exhibitor’s marketplace and corporate exhibitions on the main floor. I recognized the need for inclusive spaces like this for African American women where they could celebrate and educate themselves with information now and in the future.”
The #SHEMATTERS empowerment sessions & workshops have conversations specifically tailored for the African American woman, her family, career, and lifestyle. Candid discussions with local and national speakers in each BWe market have an opportunity to provide their expertise on different topics.
There’s definitely something for everyone. Understanding that the next generation is just as important as the present, the Youth Summit is designed for teens aged 13-19, focusing on self-care, leadership, and decision-making skills. After these discussions, the teens have a youth town hall meeting featuring a panel of city officials, community leaders, and representatives from different organizations determined to empower them with information and resources. A live youth showcase follows featuring local and national music acts. Students are exposed to real-world networking and interactions with corporate sponsors, entrepreneurs, and small business owners in the Marketplace.
The Men’s Den is an exclusive space for male guests to get pampered and groomed while sampling the best in men’s fashions, hair, and skincare products. Young children have a place too where they can play interactive games, get their faces painted, and have fun.
One of the highlights of the Expo is the opportunity for local small businesses to join the certified BWe Certified Vendor table in the Marketplace where their products and services are showcased. Not-for-profit small businesses can also take advantage of this opportunity through vending in the Marketplace.
Every year, national music artists, local favorite acts, fashion shows, dance recitals, and more take the stage at the Expo. Beyond the entertainment, lecturers, celebrities, and national leaders take part in exclusive pop-up shops for audience engagement.
A visionary for greater things, the Expo is one of Merry’s greatest accomplishments. With the issues of Black women being just as prevalent, if not even more than when the event started in 1993, having events and spaces like this help make a difference.
“It’s all about recognizing the Black woman,” says Green. “All too often, the resources and spaces needed to recharge were non-existent. I wanted a place where they could feel welcome while getting information and gaining connections to help get ahead.”
Maintaining consistency throughout the pandemic, the comeback after a two-year hiatus from an in-person venue is exciting. BWe Next is back in full swing with the first event happening in Detroit’s Huntington Place on June 18th and 19th. In August, the fun comes back home to Chicago at McCormick Place on the 12th through the 14th, and Atlanta gets to experience the magic on December 17th and 18th at the Georgia International Convention Center.
“We’re coming back this year stronger than ever,” says Green. “While the pandemic caused us to make some adjustments, we never stopped the momentum. We have an amazing roster of sponsors who understand the power of the BWe brand and are standing behind us as we get back to an in-person platform. What better way to reintroduce ourselves than by going national with a 3-city tour?”
Sponsors of the event include JP Morgan Chase & Co., Walgreens, LMN, LinkedIn, Aetna, iHeart Media, ORS, V103 Chicago, Inspiration 1390AM, Mix 92.3 Detroit, Michigan Chronicle, 1075WGCI, Lifetime, Motown Museum, WVON1690AM, 97.9 WJLB, Aspire, Heart & Soul, Howard Brown Health, and Sigma Gamma Rho Central Region.
With over 25 years under her belt with BWe Next, Merry shows no signs of slowing things down. With the addition of two more cities this year, the Expo continues to grow and empower African American women through resources, solutions, and connections focused on continuous growth for this community. What’s next for Merry? The evolving success of BWe Next.
Tickets for the Detroit BWe Next are available now. Tickets for the Chicago and Atlanta events are coming soon. Find out more about the BWe Next events taking place in Detroit in June, Chicago in August, and Atlanta in December at bwenext.com.